There have been many saints called John. (For a note on the name, see John.) According to Attwater (1965), there are "sixty-four in the Roman Martyrology alone". The most important, in the sense of being most frequently met in the course of studies, church names and so on, are given here, along with one or two of more local interest. (For others, you will have to consult a more detailed source, such as Attwater or Farmer 2003; or the magnificent Acta Sanctorum ('Doings of the Saints'), published in sixty-eight volumes by the Société des Bollandistes, Antwerp and Brussels, 1643-present.) The identification of the Saint Johns is made harder by confusions over the Apostle, the Divine, the Evangelist and the Epistolarist, some of whom may be the same as each other - but not demonstrably proved as such. For example, both Attwater and Farmer call the second earliest St John the Apostle and Evangelist, but Peake's Commentary says, with some support, that this traditional belief "remains at least open to question" (§ 735c). The adjective Johannine (~ 'to do with John') usually refers to the Saint John or Saint Johns who wrote in the New Testament: the writer(s) of the Gospel according to John, the three Epistles of John, and the Revelation of Saint John the Divine. These are traditionally identified with the Apostle John, although none of the identifications is universally accepted. Accordingly, separate notes have been written for each of the Johns that ordinary students are likely to come across.
- 1 John the Apostle
- 2 John the Baptist
- 3 John of Ávila
- 4 John of the Cross
- 5 John Chrysostom
- 6 John of Damascus
- 7 John the Divine
- 8 John the Epistolarist
- 9 John the Evangelist
- 10 John Fisher
- 11 John of Nepomuk
- 12 John of Patmos
- 13 (Saint John Lateran)
- 14 St. John Bosco
- 15 John of Beverley
- 16 John of Bridlington
John the Apostle
- John the Apostle (1st century of the Common Era) was, along with his brother James, called to follow Jesus from their work of mending nets (Mark, I, 19-20), thus becoming two of the Twelve Apostles. They were also known as the "Sons of Zebedee", and "sons of thunder", which may be a reference to their quick tempers. It is traditionally believed that this John is the same as the Evangelist; he has also been identified with the Epistolarist and the Divine. This may be questioned on stylistic grounds. Tradition has it that John the Apostle died in Ephesus.
John the Baptist
- John the Baptist (1st century of the Common Era) was Jesus' elder cousin: his mother Elizabeth was related to Mary. John's was a miraculous birth: Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, a priest, had given up hope of a child. John is a prophet, recognized as such in Islam (where he is called Yahyā) as well as in Christianity: he said of himself that he was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord'". In the course of his ministry, he baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. Later, he denounced King Herod Antipas for incest, and was beheaded when the woman concerned, Herodias, Herod's brother's widow and his niece, persuaded her daughter Salome to ask for John's head on a plate.
John of Ávila
- Saint John of Ávila (1499-1569), also known as 'the Apostle of Andalusia' (from which the Muslims had been expelled in 1492), was a Spanish priest known for his asceticism. He was famous for his sermons. His efforts to reform the priesthood (insisting on holiness and celibacy) helped the Spanish Inquisition to imprison him on suspicion of heresy: he was cleared in 1533. His writings, including sermons, letters to the faithful and mystical works, linked with his support for education (he founded many schools and colleges), led to his canonization in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
John of the Cross
- Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) was a Spanish mystic, theologian and poet. He was born Juan de Yepes Alvarez, and entered the Carmelite order in 1563, taking the name of Fr. Juan de Santo Matia. He was severely punished for his attempts to reform the Carmelites, but managed, with the encouragement of Saint Teresa of Ávila, to found the order of the discalced (~ 'unshod', i.e. wearing sandals rather than shoes) friars. These are the Reformed Carmelites, which - despite John's continuing persecution - survived. He wrote some of the most highly regarded mystical poetry in Spanish literature.
- Saint John Chrysostom (c347-407) was a priest who became Archbishop of Constantinople in 398. He had always been known for his preaching - Chrysostom (χρυσόοτομος, chrusostomos) means 'golden-mouthed' in Greek - and learning. As Archbishop, he showed a puritan streak, and became involved in a conflict with the Empress Eudoxia, and was twice deposed, dying from the strain of travel after his exile. He is venerated as a Doctor of the Church.
John of Damascus
- Saint John of Damascus, also known as John Damascene, (c.657-749) was a Christian theologian and monk living in Damascus under Muslim rule. He was a learned man, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1890, largely on the strength of his Fount of Knowledge in three parts, of which De Fide Orthodoxa (its Latin title, for the Greek ἔκδοσις ἀκριβὴς τῆς ὀρθόδοξου πίστεως (ekdosis akribes tes orthodoxou pisteos, Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith) laid out the teaching of the Orthodox tradition, and was influential at the Council of Nicaea. He is also honoured for his defence of images against the iconoclasts, with his Apologetic Treatises against Those Decrying the Holy Images.
John the Divine
- John the Divine ('Divine' here is a noun being used in the standard 17th century language of the AV to mean 'theologian', 'man of knowledge of God') is the author of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. (Revelation was written toward the end of the 1st century of the Common Era.) Although it has traditionally been believed that this John is also the Evangelist, and indeed the Epistolarist as well - and therefore the Apostle - it appears that this is improbable, on stylistic grounds. In the third century, the author of Revelation was said to be John the Presbyter ('the Elder'). He himself says, in the first chapter, "I John,... was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."
John the Epistolarist
- There are three Epistles in the New Testament which are 'Johannine': the First Epistle General of John, The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John, in the translation of the AV. The most common assumption, perhaps, is that they are the work of the Evangelist; but, again, there are stylistic reasons for doubting this. In 2 and 3 John, the writer calls himself 'the Elder', for which the Greek word is Presbyter.
John the Evangelist
- Saint John Fisher, or John of Rochester, (1469 [in Beverley] - 1535) was a learned humanist, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University in 1501: he employed Erasmus as Professor. In 1502 be was chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, the king's mother, who founded St John's College (dedicated to John the Evangelist); in 1504, Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge. Although a humanist, he opposed Luther and resisted the Reformation, as he opposed the divorce from Katherine of Aragon. He was executed for treason, as he refused to recognize Henry VIII as Head of the Church in England, remaining loyal to the Pope - who created him a Cardinal in 1535. According to Farmer, 1997, "The recently elected pope, Paul III, nominated him a cardinal, to which Henry VIII replied that even if he sent him a red hat [badge of cardinal's office], Fisher would have no head to put it on."
John of Nepomuk
- This St John (also called St John Nepomucen(e), a more Latinized version) was born in the (now Czech) village of Nepomuk, or Pomuk in German, around 1345, ordained priest, and made vicar-general of Saint Giles Cathedral in 1393 . He was drowned at the orders of Wenceslas IV of Bohemia, in a dispute over the appointment of a new Abbot of Kladruby, or over the inviolability of the secrets of the Confessional, or possibly over the authority of the Pope, in Avignon or Rome. He was the patron saint of Bohemia, and is one of the patrons of the Czech Republic.
John of Patmos
- The author of Revelation says that he "was in the isle that is called Patmos" (Rev. i,1), whither, it is suggested, he had been exiled for his faith. Paintings of the author of Revelation are often labelled St John of Patmos.
(Saint John Lateran)
- This is not a saint: it is the name of the basilica (church) in the Lateran area of Rome (called after the Laterani, a family of pre-Christian Rome that owned it and built there). The fuller name is The Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran (Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni in Laterano). Despite its name, the church is dedicated primarily to "Our Saviour" (Jesus), and secondarily to two Saint Johns from the list above, the Baptist and Evangelist. The official name is Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sancti Iohannes Baptista et Evangelista in Laterano (in Latin). It is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is the oldest church in Rome, the mother church of all Roman Catholic churches, the Cathedral of Rome, and the Pope's official church; Roman Catholics hold it to be the most important of Christian churches. In 312, the Roman Emperor Constantine allowed the Pope to set up the episcopal chair in a church in the Lateran. The first mention in ancient sources is 313, when a consistory of bishops was held in Domus Faustae in Laterano (~ 'Fausta's house in the Lateran'). (Fausta was Constantine's second wife, who was a convert.) The Popes lived in the Lateran Palace until Clement V (1305-1314) transferred the papal seat to Avignon. After the return of the Pope to Rome in 1377, the Vatican Palace became the papal residence.
St. John Bosco
(1815-1888) founded the Salesian Order.
John of Beverley
- Saint John of Beverley (d. 721) was Bishop, first of Hexham and then of York. A respected teacher, he founded Beverley Minster.
John of Bridlington
There are also places and families called St John or St John's. The capital of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Caribbean, is St. John's; it, and the provincial capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, St. John's, were important bases for the Royal Navy, the first the base of the Caribbean Fleet during the eighteenth century and the Napoleonic wars, the second as a base for convoy escorts during the Second World War. (Because it is so far east in North America, it saw the reception of the first transatlantic radio transmission (by Marconi in 1901), and the take-off of the first transatlantic flight (by Alcock and Brown in 1918). St. John's Wood is a district of London named for the Knights Hospitaller, formally the Knights of St John [the Baptist] of Jerusalem. The famous Lord's cricket ground is in St John's Wood. The family name St John is pronounced SIN-jen (IPA: /'sɪn dʒən/) by most of its users, including the politician Norman St John-Stevas, now Baron St John of Fawsley (born 1929). See also Odd pronunciations of proper names - examples.